The moment that rugby fans have been waiting for is finally almost here, with the 2023 Rugby World Cup set to begin this Friday.
The tournament is being held in France this year and will see 20 countries battle it out across 48 matches.
While South Africa took home the trophy at the 2019 World Cup, the key question remains – who will win this year?
To predict the answer, Niven Winchester, a Professor of Economics at Aukland University of Technology, enlisted the help of an algorithm that uses 10,000 simulations to rank the contenders.
His results suggest that New Zealand will pip South Africa to the post – while England only has a 2.3 per cent chance of winning the tournament.
While South Africa took home the trophy at the 2019 World Cup, the key question remains – who will win this year? To predict the answer, Niven Winchester, a Professor of Economics at Aukland University of Technology, enlisted the help of an algorithm that uses 10,000 simulations to rank the contenders
His results suggest that New Zealand will pip South Africa to the post – while England only has a 2.3 per cent chance of winning the tournament
Who’s most likely to win the 2023 Rugby World Cup?
New Zealand: 33.5%
South Africa: 26.2%
Professor Winchester’s algorithm has been ‘well-tested’ and is called Rugby Vision.
Writing for The Conversation, he explained: ‘The Rugby Vision model uses three key components: a rating system for international teams; estimation of expected outcomes for each RWC game using those ratings; and 10,000 simulations of the tournament to account for uncertainty around expected outcomes.’
The official world rankings currently have Ireland at the top, followed by South Africa, France and New Zealand.
However, Professor Winchester’s algorithm, which is based on a custom ‘points exchange’ system that considers past games results and home advantage, has slightly different rankings.
‘New Zealand is the top ranked team, followed by South Africa, Ireland and France,’ he said.
World Cup teams are initially put into two pools, with the top two teams in each qualifying for the quarterfinals.
From Pool A (which includes New Zealand, France, Italy, Uruguay, and Namibia), New Zealand and France will qualify for the quarterfinals, while South Africa and Ireland will knock out Scotland, Tonga, and Romania to go through from Pool B, according to the algorithm.
Pool C appears to be the most even group, with Australia and Wales most likely to progress, although Fiji has a ‘reasonable chance’.
Finally, in Pool D, England and Argentina are favourites to make the quarterfinals, according to Professor Winchester.
After this initial round, the Pool A qualifiers will play the Pool B qualifiers.
‘Because these are strong pools, semifinalist probabilities for these teams are relatively low,’ Professor Winchester explained.
Professor Winchester’s algorithm has been ‘well-tested’ and is called Rugby Vision
‘For example, Ireland has an 81.2% chance of being a quarterfinalist but only a 33.1% probability of making the semifinals.’
In the semifinals, teams from Pool A and/or B will play teams from Pool C and/or D.
‘As teams from Pools A and B are heavily favoured to win those games, their finalist probabilities are only slightly lower than their semifinalist probabilities,’ Professor Winchester said.
‘Conversely, Pool C and D teams with high semifinalist chances have relatively low finalist probabilities.
‘For example, England has a 55.0% chance of playing in a semifinal but only a 9.7% chance of being a finalist.’
Overall, the algorithm suggests that New Zealand has a 33.5 per cent chance of winning the tournament, while the next most likely champions are South Africa (26.2 per cent), France (20.6 per cent), and Ireland (11.9 per cent).
However, Professor Winchester admits that anything could happen.
‘While the Rugby Vision predictions provide a reliable forecast, upsets do happen – we just don’t know when,’ he added.
‘That’s what makes sport so interesting, after all.’